Category Archives: About this blog

Still kicking–sort of

Visitors to this blog might wonder if the author has given up on it. Blog writing takes time and effort, and I confess I have not devoted much of either to this project over the past year. I’m definitely not ready to throw in the towel, however. I believe in TLV and want to keep it alive. But I won’t proclaim grand plans to reinvigorate this blog in 2014, either. I’m taking a “realistic” approach with my commitments. Outside of family, which of course is my highest priority and always will be, I am fully dedicated to helping the practice I joined a little over a year ago flourish. I also want to continue to nurture my relationship with Clinician’s Brief, which has also lasted in its current form just over a year.

Last year at this time, I chose three words to guide me in 2013: Listen. Organize. Energize.

Here’s the truth: I think I failed on all three fronts. I couldn’t even remember what my three words were until I looked at them just moments ago. Part of me thinks perhaps I should not choose three words for next year, but what if that’s the beginning of the end? Does it mean I’m giving up?

Even with a reduction in my total number of commitments (e.g. stepping down as president of the non-profit I started), my kids getting a little older and slightly more independent (my youngest turned 2; she’s still in diapers but hopefully not by the end of 2014), I have felt myself slip into a strange and unfamiliar void. I’m not as excited about things that usually get me energized, such as going to work, making progress/accomplishments at work, organizing things, writing, taking pictures, etc. I usually have so many ideas about the types of things I want to do, I’ve wished for a way to turn them off. Not so now. I still have a good level of energy, and feel pleased and even happy about where I’m at in life, but I don’t feel the same excitement and passion that I used to consider innate qualities. Is it just that I’m getting older? Or am I becoming complacent? I fear complacency, and this comes back to my original point that I don’t want to give up.

If I want to choose three words for 2014, I could do:

  • Don’t give up.
  • Give my best.
  • Keep it going.

These sound a bit defeatist, and while there’s an element of accuracy in terms of how I feel at this time, I’d like to instill a bit more optimism. I think I’ll go with a quote that I see from time to time, and it resonated with me when I saw it recently:

Trust the process.

Ok, 2014: I’m going to keep walking along the path(s) I believe in. Just need to trust myself and the path. And if I do that, I can’t fail.

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Reflecting on the past year and choosing my three words for next year

Each year, instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I choose three words to help guide my decisions and how I live my life. Last year at this time, I was holding a brand new baby in my arms, and the words I chose to guide the oncoming year reflected my deep sense of commitment to her and my family: Nurture the future.

Now, here I am a year later, and my baby is a year old, and her big brother is 4.5 years old. My sense of commitment to my family is no less, but a lot has happened in the past 12 months, and the coming of a New Year brings with it a special opportunity to reaffirm one’s goals and direction.

So let’s see…here are some of the big changes that have occurred in my life in the past year:

  • After 8 years practicing at the only hospital I’ve ever worked as a veterinarian, I parted ways and took a leap of faith into a new practice.
  • My good, old dog, Monty, crossed the rainbow bridge. His age was unknown, but I estimated 12-15 years old.
  • My working relationship with the veterinary publication, Clinician’s Brief, has molded itself into yet another adventure. I accepted a position as Medical Contributor, which means I help select content to post on their Facebook page and e-newsletters and write some of the copy for those elements.
  • I announced my plans to step down as president of a non-profit organization that I started in 2008. It is in a good financial situation and has great leadership in the wings. I hope I’m leaving it in good shape for a great, promising future.

The risks associated with my employment changes has brought some tension in my personal life, and while sparing this blog of the gory details, suffice to say I believe with all my heart that I’m making the right move and I am working really hard to make sure other loved ones in my life will see that these changes will have a positive impact on all of us.

With that in mind, I have given tremendous consideration to the words I chose for 2013. One “challenge” I faced with my previous three words (“Nurture the future”) was my relentless sense of needing to accomplish things—whether it’s the laundry, a blog post, or an agenda for an upcoming board meeting of which I’m president.  So while I want to spend time with my family—and have been spending nearly every night on the couch watching TV with my husband after the kids are tucked in—I need to run the laundry, read and write more, and make impressive contributions to my new practice, where I hope to someday be a partner.  Most nights that I sit on the couch and watch reruns (thanks, Netflix!) of Magnum, P.I. and Mythbusters, I enjoy my time taking it easy, but there is a little voice in my head reminding me that I have obligations, and I’m making things more difficult for myself by putting them off.

In 2013, I want to listen to that little voice. I want to accomplish the things I know I can accomplish, which requires that I take the time to be organized. I want this leap of faith transition to ‘wow’ those around me—because I know I can do it.

Here they are, my three words for 2013:

Listen. Organize. Energize.

 

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Coming Full Circle

Almost one year since my last post on this blog, I am returning to writing here. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing blogs for Clinician’s Brief (under the heading The Learning Vet), and will continue to do so, but on more of a quarterly basis. So I thought I would reflect on where this experiment started, where it has taken me, and where I hope to go.

When I started this blog, I wanted to focus my posts on experiences or observations that I felt were educational, either to myself or others. I figured my audience would primarily be veterinarians and students of veterinary medicine. Fearing criticism, or perhaps just disdain from those more knowledgeable and experienced than myself, I chose to write anonymously.

But afterall, this blog is about experiences, new and revisited. Not all of the experiences in my career are clinical in nature. In fact, only a relatively small percentage of them are directly related to the medicine I practice on a daily basis. An overwhelming, and exceedingly important, amount of what I do is all the “in between” stuff–communication, social media, finding life balance, etc. As I return to writing my own blog on my own site, I want to use a broader definition of learning–not just what I learned in veterinary medicine, like how to catheterize a female rabbit or how to spay a bearded dragon, but what I’ve learned about transitioning into a corporate setting at work, why I love AAHA, and even what I’ve learned about just writing itself.

Writing for the Clinician’s Brief blog did two things (at least): 1) I realized I could actually get paid money (not a ton of course, but still!) for writing, a previously foreign concept for me; and 2) putting my experiences and thoughts into writing taught me that I highly value the perspective one can gain by reflection–something I hadn’t really appreciated before. And a third thing: it exposed my identity, thus I open myself to adoration and admonishment alike! An uncomfortable feeling, but I’m along for the ride to see where it takes me!

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Exciting news for TLV readers!

Last week, I received a call from Clinican’s Brief asking me to consider blog writing for them! As you could probably tell from my previous post about Clinician’s Brief, you know I’m a huge fan. So needless to say, it was quite exciting to discuss the prospect of providing blogs for them. I’ve put together about 5 posts that I’ll submit to them, to give them an overview of what my posts would be like, and then I’ll find out if they want me to keep writing for them!

It also means my identity will be shared with anyone who cares to know, although I intend to keep this site relatively anonymous for the time-being. My main reason for this has more to do with my reluctance to risk sounding like I’m self-promoting too much. Not that there’s anything wrong with self-promoting oneself, but it so does not come naturally to me and makes me squirmy and uncomfortable.

On that note, I unknowingly signed myself up for a crash course in leadership and personnel management. For reasons I can’t clearly remember, I agreed to coordinate and organize an open house for our hospital. The event takes place this Saturday. If I don’t have a stroke due to the crushing stress I feel, I’ll be sure to write more about this learning experience in a future post. (Note to self: I’d really like to learn how to not care when people aggressively and offensively complain about the job I’m doing, and how to not care about stepping on people’s toes or feelings when telling them what I expect them to do.)

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What’s the big idea?

Thinking...

Photo Credit: "Thinking" by Klearchos Kapoutsis

Where do ideas come from? Blogging offers the writer an opportunity to explore thoughts and ideas, as I’m doing here. It’s hard to say whether I’ve had more ideas since starting this blog, as I’ve always had a busy mind and am always thinking about fun projects and things I want to do to help others/improve my own skills/network/build ideas. As time goes on, perhaps I will explore some of these ideas I have through this blog (such as my desire to create a student externship program at our hospital; build greater camaraderie amongst  veterinarians through our local VMA–of which I am the current president; my interest in building my speaking skills and possibly offering lectures around the country; and many other smaller (and some much bigger) ideas that like to bounce around in my head).

Many of my ideas stem from the inspiration I feel when reading innovative thoughts and creative processes from others. For example, a pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. V, has what I find to be a very interesting blog on the human side of medicine called 33 charts. Dr. V is foremost a medical doctor, busy seeing patients all day, but he has a deeply-entrenched interest in social media–much like I do. It was from him that I learned about the concept of “portfolio careers.” As he stated on his blog, in reference to a post from BMJ:

“For the uninitiated, portfolio careers have been known in medicine since at least the 19th century, when Anton Chekhov combined his medical practice with writing plays.”

Ever since I read that, I feel like I’ve been granted this freedom to further explore social media, writing, and video editing.

Dr. V has also introduced me to a previously unknown concept: social health. He posted a lot about SXSW, and I kept thinking, “What does a music and film festival have to do with medicine?” So I explored his posts, one thing led to another, and now I have a totally new area of interest.

Other seemingly random sources of inspiration that have absolutely nothing to do with veterinary medicine keep cropping up.

  • @Jessedee’s Slideshare Presentions – “I make presentations that don’t suck.” I didn’t think I cared about SXSW, but the online presentations he’s made available documenting his experience day-by-day were so captivating, amusing, and innovative, I couldn’t stop clicking. Before I knew it, I’d spent an hour looking at a variety of his presentations. I felt totally inspired.
  • Chris Brogan: Chris’ blog is heavily social media-oriented, but he also talks about how to be successful at writing, at business, and at life. I love the diversity, as it carries a surprisingly universal message. He also offers a list of Blog Topic Ideas, which can be adapted for almost any sort of blog.

There’s so much to be learned from others. Whether it’s related to vet med or not, I love playing connect the dots and see what kind of picture comes up. Ultimately, I’ve come to realize that my ideas are like little children born out of my brain. I want to nurture them, help them grow, and perhaps send them off on their own when, or if, they become self-sustaining. Not all of them survive, but I love each and every one of them.

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Communicating clearly: “Let’s see if he has a bladder”

A recent post on A Vet’s Guide to Life, Proper Communication, discussed some important points when it comes to communicating with pet owners. The post started with an email from a vet tech (and vet student hopeful–good luck!) who shared her observations about doctor-client communication. She cited specific examples of conversation snippets that might sound odd or be misinterpreted by a lay person (which most pet owners are, with some exceptions of course).

Here’s one example she used: “Once, she [the veterinarian] told someone with a puppy who was leaking urine that she wanted to ultrasound him in back to ‘see if he had a bladder’–meaning check to see if his bladder was full–so we could get a urine sample. The owner blinked her eyes and said, ‘is it possible that he might not have a bladder?’ to which the doctor replied, ‘sure, especially if he just urinated.'”

This observation illustrates a couple important points:

  1. The veterinarian is oblivious to the fact that her nonchalant explanation, while it makes perfect sense to her, can easily be misinterpreted by someone who interprets a more literal meaning.
  2. The perspective of the vet tech watching this conversation take place is removed enough from the situation to catch this potential problem and identify it as such.

I like learning from these kinds of alternative, fly-on-the-wall perspectives. I think it takes the perspective of someone removed enough from the situation to catch these potential communication gaps. I’m an advocate for video recording exam room etiquette so as to analyze your body language and communication style, but would the vet, if she watched a video of this exchange, even detect that her choice of words could be confusing? I think most vets who are comfortable with their communication style would not notice the lack of understanding on the part of the owner.

I applaud the vet tech who made this observation (and others mentioned in the original post). I think the truly great vets are ones who not only understand the complexities of veterinary medicine, but can communicate complex issues in a way that non-medical pet owners can understand. This is something I struggle with every day, and one of the reasons I started this blog.

For vets interested in expanding their ability to communicate effectively, consider enrolling in the PfizerFrank Communication Training. I haven’t done the actual 2-day workshop at Colorado State University, but we’ve had some in-clinic Frank training which has been very illuminating and helpful.

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The beginning of the blog

I’m starting this blog with the idea that it can help other veterinarians, vets-to-be, and even others in the pet world. One of the things I admire most about the veterinary field is the opportunity to continuously learn and strive for self-improvement. My hope is that I can help others who may not have access to mentoring or other resources that help with teaching skills crucial for private practice. Initially I thought this blog would be posted anonymously, but it quickly became apparent that it won’t be hard to figure out who I am (my name is on my lab coat which appears in videos I plan to post). This most definitely will not be a high-volume blog, due to the fact that I already have no spare time. But I hope its followers chime in and interact, as I think we all have things to learn from one another. I certainly don’t want anyone to make the mistake that just because I say it, it’s so. I know as well as any veterinarian that there is a LOT I don’t know, and the confidence with which I make my statements should not lead one to necessarily interpret them as correct. I primarily want to help vet students and foreign vets with examples of exam room etiquette. I may also include videos demonstrating clinical technique or examples of worth exam findings. Because I really enjoy seeing/treating exotic animals, I will include some examples of those too.

Please subscribe and join the discussion!

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